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California Dreaming

The American dream was affirmed yesterday– at least for some California residents. For tens of thousands of children, brought here illegally as children by their parents, Jerry Brown’s signing of  the California Dream Act, was a symbol of hope that their state cares about them.

Qualifying students, regardless of their immigration status, can now apply for state financial aid. This was part B of a two-part law, part A passed earlier this year which allowed students to apply for private loans & financial aid regardless of status.

This is great, but it isn’t enough

While I’m thrilled with this new state law it isn’t the Dream Act we need at the federal level.

  • Qualifying students still cannot apply for federal financial aid because they lack legal immigration status.
  • Republicans continue to block measures which would provide a pathway to citizenship or even permanent resident status for children brought here by their parents.
  • Since the majority of financial aid for college comes from the federal level, this is more support but not a level playing field.

Why this matters to youth workers and the church

  • It’s a matter of justice: It’s an injustice that a person raised in this country, who goes to school right next to your children, does not have the same opportunities to succeed that your child does. For many of these students, they had no say in whether or not their parents brought them here. But they have gone through our educational system, learned the language, competed with native-speaking peers, and this is their country in every way… except the one that truly matters, full legal status/rights.
  • It’s a matter of fairness: You want to pay $.99 for a pound of tomatoes or $1.29 for ground beef? Do you really think that $7 t-shirt you are making for your retreat was made by workers making minimum wage? Of course not. We both know it. Your standard of living is subsidized off of the back’s of cheap labor. To block those workers children access to post-secondary education & a pathway to legal status is embracing a system of oppression.
  • It’s a matter of numbers: Whether your church recognizes it or not we are still a melting pot country. The Latino population (whom the Dream Act primarily benefits) is exploding! Some predictions show that nearly 30% of the US population will be of Latino origon by  2050. On top of that, the census bureau is predicting a massive shift towards youth in the coming years. Currently, there are 59 children per 100 people in the US. By 2025 this will be 72. So our country is getting younger and more Latino… quickly.
  • It’s a matter of strategy: Let’s talk turkey. Let’s say you could care less about the first 3 things I listed. (Justice, fairness, and numbers) Let’s say you’re so hung up on the fact that their parents brought these children here illegally that you don’t want to give them anything like legal status, equal protection under our laws, or equal access to the same education your children have. (e.g. Arizona & Alabama lawmakers) With the population quickly shifting to give numerical power to legal people of Latino origin… do you really want to have your church as one of the agencies who held them back? Do you think that’s a good long term strategy for your church?

For my youth worker friends: Let’s be reminded that our role in our community isn’t just to work at our churches. We are in our communities to advocate for all teenagers in Jesus’ name. God isn’t interested in the immigration status of students in your ministry. He’s interested in their status with Himself.

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:40

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